Monday, November 28, 2011

cranberry and orange vodka

Today we're having a party. I've got my music cranked up, my sparkly shoes on, and I even curled my hair. Wait, what's that? We're not actually having a party? It's two in the afternoon on a Sunday? Sorry I guess I got confused. (Does this mean I should put the glass of champagne down now? Never mind, don't answer that.)

Today we're just talking about parties. About holiday parties to be specific.  Holiday parties can be awesome. There are Christmas carols and peppermint cookie and mistletoe. Holiday parties can also be awkward. There are reindeer sweaters and fruitcakes and mistletoe.  We've all been there.

I can't mend the mistletoe mishaps, but I do have the answer to another of your burning holiday party questions--what to bring the hostess. This cranberry infused vodka makes for a festive and pretty gift that any party planner would be happy to receive. Tie it with a bow, attach the recipe for the cranberry cocktail listed below, and you've got an instant holiday hit on your hands. Just don't forget to make an extra batch for yourself.  It will pair perfectly with all that leftover fruitcake.

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Cranberry and Orange Vodka
Recipe from Martha Stewart

1 cup cranberries, rinsed 
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons water
1 large piece orange peel
3 cups vodka

Combine cranberries, sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until the sugar is dissolved, the liquid is pink and the cranberries are beginning to burst. Remove from heat and pour into a glass jar.  Add the vodka and the orange peel, cover, and let sit at room temperature for at least three days or up to a month. Strain before serving.

Serving Suggestions: 

Cranberry Cosmopolitan
Recipe from Martha Stewart
(Note: I haven't made this yet, but it's Martha's recommended way to serve. Let me know if you try it out!)

1 1/2 ounces cranberry infused vodka
1 1/2 ounces cranberry juice
1/2 ounce Cointreau (or another orange liqueur)
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
ice cubes, for shaking
cranberries and orange peel for garnish

Combine the cranberry vodka, cranberry juice, orange liqueur and lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until well combined. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with skewered cranberries or orange peel.

Other Edible Holiday Gift Ideas:

Friday, November 25, 2011

{twd} brown butter apple pie

This Thanksgiving, I'm oh so thankful for family, for friends, and for pie. I spent my holiday in Minnesota surrounded by food and family (and the kind of signs you just don't see in Manhattan).  Below is a recipe for one of the treats that graced our Thanksgiving table (the other, which has become somewhat of a staple around these parts, can be found here). I hope that however you spent your holiday, you had a happy one. Thank you for reading. I'm so grateful that you're here.

It's been a while since I've participated in Tuesdays with Dorie, but the group is nearly finished working its way through Baking from My Home to Yours so I figured it's time to get back on the wagon. This week was a "rewind" week, so I made Dorie's All American All Delicious Apple Pie and fancied it up for the holiday by adding some browned butter.

Brown Butter Apple Pie
Adapted from Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

For the Pie Dough
3 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for flouring surfaces
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold and cut into pieces
1/3 cup shortening, very cold and cut into pieces
1/2 cup very cold water

For the Filling**
3 lbs apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced (I used a mix of Cortland and Honeycrisp)
3/4 cup sugar, plus additional for the pie top
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt
2 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca
2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs*
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
heavy cream for brushing the pie top

To Make the Pie Dough
Combine flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Drop the butter and shortening into the food processor and pulse until just combined. Don't over mix the dough--you want pieces the size of green peas. Gradually drizzle about 6 tablespoons of water into the processor, pulsing the machine on and off as you go. Give the machine a few long pulses. The goal here is to sufficiently moisten the dough so that it doesn't look dry, and holds together when pinched. You may or may not need the full half cup of water. Turn the dough out onto a clean, floured surface. It's okay if there are some pieces of butter or flour that don't look like they're incorporated.  Divide the dough in half, gather each half into a ball, and flatten each ball into a disc. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour. (If I am going to leave my dough in the refrigerator longer, say overnight, I slip each plastic wrapped disc into a Ziploc bag to protect against refrigerator odors. 

To Make the Filling
Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat until it is golden, fragrant, and browned bits have formed. (Watch the butter carefully as it burns very easily.) In a large bowl, combine the apples, sugar, cinnamon, salt, tapioca and graham cracker crumbs (you can crush a few crackers with your hands or the back of a knife, or pulse them in a food processor).  Pour the brown butter over the apples, stir, and allow the filling to sit while you roll out the dough.
*Note: Dorie sprinkles the cracker crumbs over the bottom of the pie dough before spooning the filling on top of it in order to keep the crust from getting soggy. I forgot and mixed the crackers right into the filling. If you try it her way, let me know what you think!

**Note: The original recipe included the zest of one lemon, but I used the only lemon at my parents' house the night before in a hot toddy. Oops! 

To Roll Out the Dough and Assemble the Pie
Remove your dough from the refrigerator, and let it stand for a few minutes at room temperature. You want your dough to be cold, but not so stiff that it will crack and tear when you try to roll it out. Place one disc of dough on a clean, floured work surface. Sprinkle some flour on top of the disc of dough and on your rolling pin. Working from the center of your disc of dough, roll the dough out towards the edges. Every few rolls, turn the dough in a clockwise direction to prevent it from sticking to the countertop. When your dough is about 1/8 inch thick and large enough to fit in a 9-inch, deep dish pie plate, position the pie plate behind your dough, place your rolling pin in the center of your circle of dough, and fold the back half of your dough over the rolling pin. Holding onto the pin, quickly and carefully lift the dough into the pie plate. Gently press the dough down into the pie plate, and use a kitchen scissors to trim the edges. Roll out the second disc of dough in the same manner as the first. Spoon the filling into the bottom crust (the filling will mound up over the top of the crust).  Lightly moisten the edges of the bottom crust with a bit of water, and place the top crust over the pie. Press the top crust and bottom crust together, and crimp the edges to seal using your fingers or a fork. 

Getting Ready to Bake
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Using a sharp knife, cut several steam vents in the top of the crust. Brush the top of the pie with heavy cream, and sprinkle it with sugar. 

Baking the Pie
Bake the pie for 15 minutes at 425, then lower the heat to 375 and continue cooking for 50-60 minutes, until the crust is brown and the juices are bubbling. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

cranberry salsa

Not to be a total bossypants, but you need to stop whatever you're doing and make some cranberry salsa. I know that you're busy prepping for Thanksgiving, but between planning the turkey, the stuffing, the side dishes and the pies, you may have forgotten the salsa. Yes. The salsa. It's a Thanksgiving necessity. You didn't know? Just trust me on this one.

Here's the thing--If your family is anything like mine, they plan to eat a whole lot at your Thanksgiving feast.  In fact, they plan to eat so much, that they probably skipped lunch (and most likely breakfast too) in preparation. This means that your family is hungry when they arrive. And if your family is anything like mine, your Thanksgiving feast probably won't start on time. Because despite your best intentions, you have to wait for Uncle Steve, who's running late, you have to wait for your dad, who wants to watch the last few minutes of the big game, and you have to wait for the rewarming of the mashed potatoes, which grew cold on their journey across town from Auntie Laurel's house. This means that your family was hungry when they arrived, and they're even hungrier  now that dinnertime has come and gone and there's still no turkey in sight.

You don't need me to tell you that this doesn't lead anywhere good. It leads to cranky brothers, who whine when they're not fed regularly. It leads to sneaky cousins, who pilfer pecans from the top of the pie. It leads to tipsy sisters, who really shouldn't drink champagne on an empty stomach. The solution? Salsa. Cranberry salsa to be exact. Bursting with fall flavor, this salsa is festive enough to set the mood, but not so filling that your guests will ruin their appetites for the main event. Sweet and tangy with a kick of heat from the jalapenos, it's the perfect snack for both holiday and game day. So now you know. Salsa. It's not Thanksgiving without it. 

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Cranberry Salsa
Adapted from Saveur

3 cups fresh cranberries
1 small jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed and roughly chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
zest and juice of 1 lime
zest and juice of 1/2  orange
kosher salt

Combine half the cranberries with the jalapeno, sugar, lime juice and zest and orange juice and zest in a food processor or blender (I used a Vitamix) and pulse several times until finely chopped. Add the rest of the cranberries, and pulse a few more times to combine, leaving some larger pieces of cranberry. Let the salsa sit at room temperature for 30 minutes so that the flavors can meld. Season to taste with kosher salt.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

brown butter, ginger, and sour cream coffee cake

In my experience, there are certain things that a single lady should know. A single lady should know how to mix a proper martini (coat the inside of a martini glass with a bit of dry vermouth, shake some gin over ice, and strain the chilled gin into the vermouth coated glass).  A single lady should know how to ambush an insect invader (haul out the Dyson and vacuum that sucker right up).  A single lady should know how to stop a run in her tights (clear nail polish) and how to pull together an outfit that could stop traffic.

A single lady should know how to make flowers from her corner deli last the whole week (remove the lower leaves and add a dash of sugar and a few drops of vodka to the water). A single lady should know not to respond to text messages from boys that are sent after 1 am (Seriously. Just. Don't.) A single lady should know how to test her smoke alarm and her carbon monoxide detector. (If you don't, go look right now. It's okay, I'll wait.)

A single lady should know that the best way to approach a piece of "assembly-required" furniture is often with a glass of wine in hand. (A single lady should know that this does not mean two glasses, unless she wants a desk with drawers that open out the back. Hypothetically speaking of course). A single lady should know how to firmly yet politely turn down a second date with minimal awkwardness (If you have the secret to this one, please let me know).

And a single lady should know that on a chilly Sunday morning, she deserves a piece of coffee cake. Specifically, a piece of this brown butter, ginger, and sour cream coffee cake from the November issue of Bon Appetit Magazine. Copious amounts of brown butter mean that the cake is rich and nutty, while crystallized ginger and brown sugar swirls add sweetness and spice.  A single lady should know that this recipe makes a whole lot of cake. So if there's a single gentleman she's been wanting to invite over for brunch, she now has a good excuse.

Brown Butter, Ginger and Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Slightly Adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2011
Recipe Available Here

Brown Butter
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger

Unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cups raw almonds, coarsely chopped

To Brown the Butter: Put the butter in a pan (The original recipe calls for a non-stick skillet but I used cast-iron) over medium heat. Cook the butter for about 10 minutes (the original recipe recommended 6-8 but my butter took longer) or until brown bits have formed and the butter is fragrant.  Watch the butter carefully as it begins to brown--it can burn very easily, and once it's burned it's ruined. Pour the browned butter into a glass measuring cup and be sure you have at least 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons of melted butter (just shy of 2 cups). Allow the butter to cool slightly.

To Make the Topping: Whisk the topping ingredients in a small bowl. Add 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons of the browned butter and mix until clumps form. Set the topping aside.

To Make the Cake:  Preheat the oven to 325, and generously butter a large bundt pan. (Note: the original recipe calls for a 10" tube pan with a removable top, but I don't have one so I adapted the recipe slightly to use with a bundt pan. This means that my "topping" was actually  baked into the cake. See the original recipe for instructions on assembling the cake in a tube pan.)  Whisk the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a large bowl and set it aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the remaining cup of browned butter and the sugar on medium speed until light and thick--about two minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, and then beat in the sour cream, milk and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and just stir until combined. Divide the topping into two parts, and mix half of of the topping with the chopped almonds. Scatter the almond topping in the bottom of the bundt pan. Add half the batter.  Cover with the remaining topping. Pour the rest of the cake batter into the pan. Bake for a hour and 20 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. If the top of the cake looks like it's browning too quickly, tent it with foil. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then invert onto a cooling rack. The cake can be made a day ahead of time, and stored in an airtight container at room temperature. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

white chicken chili

I've forgotten to eat precisely one meal in my entire life. Sure, I've inhaled a huge weekend brunch and been too full for lunch, or snacked my way through the afternoon and spoiled my dinner. But simply forget to eat? Fat chance. Well, fat chance with the exception of one bowl of chili that is.  It was almost exactly a year ago today, and I was having one of those crazy-busy, run around like a chicken with its head cut off kind of mornings. I only had a few minutes for lunch, so I dashed down the block to grab the closest thing I could find--a cup of mediocre deli chili and a sad looking apple. I paid for my food, shoved it into my purse and rushed back to the office where I was greeted with something that had to be taken care of immediately. One task led to another, and before I knew it, it was nearly 4pm.  Finally able to take a quick break, I reached into my bag to grab my cell phone and...there was my lunch. I had forgotten to eat my lunch. At first I was flabbergasted. I'd been starving when I went out to get that chili.  How had I completely forgotten to eat it? Next I assumed that something must be wrong. Was I feeling alright? Maybe I was getting sick. Could I be losing my mind?  And then I realized, it wasn't me that was the problem--it was my entirely forgettable lunch.  Clearly, I needed to kick things up a notch. Enter this White Chicken Chili from Eat Live Run. In addition to being creamy, spicy and totally delicious, it's also packed with protein and fiber, making it a filling and healthy lunch option. I made a big batch over the weekend and have been toting a cup to work with me each day. Not only have I been remembering to eat, but I've actually been counting the minutes until lunchtime. I think it's safe to say that the forgettable deli chili is history. 

White Chicken Chili
Adapted ever so slightly from Eat Live Run

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans
2 4-ounce cans diced green chilies (I used one hot and one mild)
14.5 ounces reduced sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup sour cream

Heat the oil in a large pot (I used a dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Add the onion and the chicken and cook until the onion is soft and translucent and the chicken is seared, about six to eight minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another three minutes. Stir in the beans, spices, chicken broth and chilies, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the chili, uncovered, for thirty minutes. Remove the chili from the heat and stir in the half and half and the sour cream. Serve warm, topped with additional sour cream, or with other toppings like shredded cheese, chopped onion, avocado or tortilla chips. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

red wine caramel apples

Let me be clear: this is not an early holiday post. Because no matter what the Christmas displays at Duane Reade would have you believe, the holidays are still a long way off. So don't be fooled by the rosy coloring, the curly ribbon and the sweets fit for stocking stuffing. This post is not about kicking off the holiday season.

So what is it about? It's about the apples that linger in my refrigerator each week, left-over from the bushel I haul home from the Greenmarket. About the giant spool of red ribbon in my desk, a remnant of my Little Red Riding Hood Halloween costume. About my need to snack on something sweet every evening while gossiping with my girlfriends over g-chat. But most of all, it's about the fact that as soon as I read the words "red wine caramel" while perusing Epicurious during yesterday's lunch break, I knew that I needed to make some as soon as possible. 

Let me repeat that in case you didn't take it in the first time: red wine caramel. As in, my two favorite things in the world combined. Red wine is reduced in a saucepan until it becomes slightly syrupy (and your entire house smells deliciously boozy), and then it's stirred into a simple caramel sauce. The result is a rich, sweet, grown-up version of a childhood favorite that I will be enjoying all winter long.  Along with a glass of red wine, naturally.

Red Wine Caramel Apples
Recipe from Gourmet, October 2009
Available via Epicurious

8 apples, stemmed, rinsed, and scrubbed to remove any wax
1 1/2 cups red wine (I used Malbec)
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
6 tablespoons heavy cream
8 wooden sticks or popsicle sticks

Line a tray with a piece of lightly greased wax paper or tinfoil. Insert a wooden stick halfway into each apple. Heat the red wine in a saucepan over medium heat until it is reduced to 1/2 cup, about 8-10 minutes. Set the wine aside to cool. 

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir the sugar and water over high heat until the sugar dissolves. Then, cook without stirring until the caramel turns a deep amber color, swirling the pan as necessary to make sure it browns evenly (once the caramel starts to turn golden, watch it carefully as it can burn very quickly).  Add the wine (careful, the mixture will bubble up) and swirl the pan to incorporate. Add the cream and simmer the mixture until a candy thermometer registers 238 degrees. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the caramel sauce to cool to 200.  

Holding the apples by their sticks, dip one at a time into the caramel sauce, rotating each apple until it's coated. Let the excess drip off, and then invert the apple, holding it stick side down (being careful not to let any hot caramel drip on your fingers) so that the caramel distributes evenly over the apple. Place each apple, stick side up, on the prepared tray to cool and solidify, about half an hour.